In his magisterial Wars of the Roses, historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill demonstrated beyond doubt that Henry VI could not have been the father of Edward of Westminster. The fact that he did so without offering any evidence makes his feat even more dazzling.
So who was the father of this misbegotten so-called prince? Although Dr Ashdown-Hill propounded the theory that Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, was the father, I find myself in the humble position of having to disagree, for once, with him. But I shall do so gently and respectfully.
As we know from Dr Ashdown-Hill’s equally magisterial Royal Marriage Secrets, Katherine of Valois’s sons Edmund and Jasper were fathered not by Owen Tudor, as those hidebound historians tied to tired ways of looking at things would have it, but by Edmund Beaufort. Why else would the eldest boy have been named “Edmund” instead of “Owen”?
Thus, logic dictates that we look for a man named Edward as the father of Edward of Lancaster. One name springs forth instantly: Edward, Earl of March.
Now, an objection, and a quite reasonable one at that, immediately comes to mind: Edward, Earl of March, born in 1442, was too young to father a child in 1453. But I would propound that Cecily, Duchess of York actually had two sons named Edward: one the legitimate offspring of Richard, Duke of York, the other the son of a lowly archer. The legitimate son was born in 1430, the date given by Sir Thomas More in his History of King Richard the Third, which goes to show that even a stopped clock tells the time right twice a day. Thus, as a randy twenty-three-year-old, the strapping Earl of March was more than ready, willing, and able to serve the beautiful, frustrated, and very French queen in any way she deemed necessary. Need I say more?
But tension was building not only between Lancaster and York, but between Legitimate Brother Edward and Illegitimate Brother Edward. As the 1450s wore on and Illegitimate Brother Edward approached the age of manhood, he brooded not only upon his base birth, but upon his older brother’s seduction of the beautiful queen. Consumed by jealousy, in 1459, he killed his brother.
Illegitimate Brother Edward had always lived out of the public eye, and he bore a remarkable resemblance to his dead brother. So Richard, Duke of York, who had come to rather like his wife’s bastard, and who did not wish to air his dirty laundry in public, hit upon a plan. He and Illegitimate Brother Edward would manufacture an excuse to flee abroad, stay a few months, and then return, with Illegitimate Brother Edward assuming the role of Dead, Legitimate Brother Edward, Earl of March. Their opportunity came in October 1459, at Ludford Bridge. When Illegitimate Brother Edward returned the following summer in the guise of his dead older brother, no man was the wiser, although a few marvelled at his youthful appearance and concluded that his exile must have been a very pleasant one.
But one woman was the wiser–Margaret of Anjou, who somehow had learned of her lover’s death. From that point on, she was determined to destroy the fake Earl of March, who had killed the father of her darling boy. Not until she was a prisoner and her son lay dead on the field of Tewkesbury would England be safe from her wrath. In the interim, countless lives were lost. We could blame this on Margaret of Anjou’s lust for vengeance, Illegitimate Brother Edward’s lust for power and status, and Legitimate Brother Edward’s just plain lust –but we shall not. Instead, we shall blame it on young Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, who somehow managed to plan it all in order to put her own whelp on the throne.
John Ashdown-Hill, Royal Marriage Secrets
John Ashdown-Hill, The Wars of the Roses
Sir Thomas More, The History of King Richard the Third
A dream I had before my dog woke me up to be taken outside. Damn dog.
Jeff Borden has been resting over the past few months. He is feeling much better, thank you very much.